Stephen “Steve” Cook’s career has made him part of the roll call of men and women who played critical roles in Alabama’s proud history of contributions to space exploration. As the former manager of NASA’s Ares Project, Cook oversaw Huntsville’s return to its roots as the nation’s Rocket City with the development of rockets designed to take humans back to the Moon and, ultimately, to Mars. Now with Dynetics Inc., he continues to support our nation’s human space exploration efforts.
In 2005, NASA tapped Cook to lead the design, fabrication, testing and implementation of the Ares I and V rockets as part of the Constellation Program, the human-space flight program charged with replacing the aging Space Shuttle and delivering humans and other payload beyond low-Earth orbit. With a $1.2 billion annual budget, the Ares project had more than 4,000 team members across seven NASA field centers, three major prime contractors and hundreds of sub-tier vendors. Cook designed the project so that NASA led the integration of the launch system and in-house development of the rocket’s upper stage, something NASA had not done since the Saturn program in the 1960s. His guidance also reestablished Marshall Space Flight Center’s manufacturing capability of large-scale cryogenic space structures. The project met all performance reviews, and, with Cook at the helm, delivered the flight hardware necessary for the Ares I-X test rocket to the Kennedy Space Center. The rocket had a successful launch in October 2009, NASA’s first full-scale development test launch in almost three decades.
Cook left NASA in September 2009 to join Dynetics Inc., but the foundation laid during the Constellation Program and Ares Project along with his technical leadership seeded NASA’s current deep space exploration efforts with the Space Launch System. Born and raised in Minnesota, he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and mechanics. Since then Cook has been on the leading edge of space flight innovation.
Cook joined Marshall Space Flight Center in 1990, working in advanced space transportation research and technology development. During that time, Cook was deputy manager of the X-33 Flight Vehicle Program and interim technology upgrade manager on a single-state-to orbit demonstration launch vehicle tested by NASA in 1996. In 1999 he became responsible for the research and development of advanced propulsion systems and space transportation vehicles for future generations of space systems. In 2004, he became deputy and acting director of space transportation programs for NASA. Cook joined Dynetics as director of space technologies where he led all of the company’s efforts in space systems development including advanced propulsion, micro satellites, launch systems and planetary landers. In 2013, he was selected as director of corporate development and then vice president of corporate development in 2014. Cook also took on the responsibilities of president at Dynetics Technical Solutions Inc. in 2016, which is responsible for mechanical manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing of all aerospace, maritime and defense systems.
Cook served as a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team for NASA where he helped develop the strategy for NASA as the agency refocuses its programs and resources to return to the moon and set the stage for a voyage to Mars. He has authored more than 30 papers on advanced space propulsion and launch systems and was a contributing author of the 1997 McGraw-Hill Aerospace Yearbook. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.